Grief: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.
At the cemetery, my sister and brother stand teary over our mother’s coffin with their arms around each other’s backs. Dry-eyed, I step up next to them, completing our sibling trio. Yet we are two plus one, a double and a single, a duet and a solo.
After standing there for a moment, unconnected–not part of their mood, not feeling their pain–I step back to allow them their moment.
We all adored my mom and felt a closeness to her that any mother (or offspring, for that matter) would envy.
So what’s with me and this numb reaction to her death?
Like my mom, I’m not a crier, except when I get divorced and have to agree to living 9 consecutive days a month without my kids. But that was years ago, and Mom was right when she told me I would eventually come to make the most of those 9 days on my own.
Though I can get weepy if I accidentally turn on the evening news, I strive to avoid sadness and pain. A mother’s death is one of the Big Boppers of loss and maybe I’ve put up a wall to block that. Or is this just a psychobabble idea from spending too much time talking to shrinks?
On a similar note, maybe I am in the denial phase; though after my father died, I also wondered why I never crumbled with grief.
Mom often said she wished she had been able to cry when Daddy died. Nonetheless, her loss was palpable after 66 years of marriage in which each considered the other before themselves.
Though it feels counterintuitive to prance around with my life the same as I did before Mom died, the fact that she and I shared the dry-eyes trait pleases me.
Her life ran its course over 92 years and she had no regrets. I celebrate that, and despite my jolly demeanor, I am aware that Mom’s death leaves me with a permanent empty space, an amputation.
Mom was the only person in the world (except me) who thought I ought to be on Oprah; Oprah, who–by ending her show–also left a hole in my life.
Mom timed her death nicely to coincide with the Oprah loss. Now, I won’t have to watch an Oprah show about, say, octogenarian sex, and then ache to phone and discuss it with Mom.
The truth is I lost my mom 2 months ago, a few days after we moved her up North in a medical van to be in a long-term care facility (she hated the term nursing home) near my brother’s family.
It was the most awesome road trip ever during which my mother said it felt surreal, as though she were traveling to Heaven, even though she didn’t believe in Heaven.
Then reality struck. Her new room–where we hung her favorite paintings and piled up personal things like the book of drawings and tales of her life I made for her 90th birthday and the quilt with family photos my sister had lovingly sewed for her–embodied all the railroad clichés: the final stop, the terminus, the end of the line.
She didn’t want to live after that and I was her cheerleader. She reminded me how I always said I’d help her pull the plug. Of course when it came down to it, I couldn’t do any such thing without the approval of my siblings, the ones who know how to cry.
A few weeks after my mother became downhearted, her body began to shut down. Her meds increased and, though she was still coherent, she became non-reactive, the opposite of the mother I always knew, who thrilled to everything from reports of my high school friend appearing as a frequent guest on MSNBC to the article I wrote about Choosing my Parents.
Another upcoming loss is likely to be my beagle Casey, given that he is 13 years old. Like Mom he has lived a long life with no regrets, except he probably wishes I’d have taught him to fetch. What if he dies and I can’t stop crying?
After all these years, my heart still goes pitty pat when I look at that boy. And even though he doesn’t have much to say about the debt ceiling, he is great company day and night. If I weep for him, not having wept for my mom, what kind of griever am I?
I’m told people grieve differently, and I’ve seen friends react similarly to me when their elderly parents died, so I’ll try to stop worrying that my heart isn’t swollen with grief right now, right after my beloved mom died.
What unexpected reactions have you had to loss?
MORE ABOUT MY MOM, MARRIAGE, RELATIONSHIPS AS WELL AS PSYCHOTHERAPISTS, CHINA, ADOPTION, MY DOG AND OTHERS IN MY NEW MEMOIR . . .
“Readers of all ages will relate to this deeply personal story, told with comical sensibility by a quirky, startlingly honest mother, daughter, ex-wife, and dog lover, who—à la Nora Ephron—will feel like a dear friend. Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others will stay with you long after you finish reading it.” (Culled from Amazon and other reviews)